An unexected return to Hong Kong
I'm writing this post shortly after having come home from Hong Kong, the incredible city where earlier this year, I completed my first residency with W Studio at JCCAC. I never planned for this to happen, but somehow my last three plane rides have all been to Hong Kong - somehow things keep calling me there (sorry if you're reading this and I didn't have time to meet with you). It's hard to believe that my residency finished eight monthes ago. Ten months ago I embarked on one of the craziest adventures of my life, in pursuit of an intensive developement of my current body of work, which further uncovered both the solidified and more organic side of the work. What I didn't expect, was for other elements to arise in the work as a result.
This trip was a short one, so I wanted to make the most of my time there. I needed to investigate further into what I didn't spend enough time doing - discovering the street culture and the effect of the environment on the work. If the work was really about 'home', then that should be more evident in the completed work, no? Despite varying differences in location at the time of creation, often there would be no evidence of these changes in environment in the resulting work. In summary, often there would be no visual clues to as to place (pre Hong Kong work as well), creating a space that could essentially be anywhere. Does that matter, or is the environment simply something behind the curtains that makes the show go on, and an element that doesn't need to be seen? Also important to note, is my realization that I may have only ever questioned this element to the work because of my use of a camera. It's alot to figure out, and something that I don't think can be answered easily, and certainly not in a few days. The quickest ways to go about trying to get an answer? A camera and a sketchbook.
If you've never been to Hong Kong before, be prepared to be fighting for breathing space just about everywhere you go. Even being there again for a few days, the feeling of just being one person caught in the flury of life is ever so prominent, even more so when you're just taking a moment to breathe. Everyone seems to just move around you, like a stone in running water - stay there long enough and the water will shave you down in size. Eventually, you get used to this and learn to adapt, and to swim with the current.
I've had this sketchbook for some time now. I always figured it would be way too small to use, but it turns out it is quite ideal for travel, as the writing on the packaging so cleverly suggests :). The following sketches were mostly done while standing up with one hand holding the sketchbook, and a pencil in the other. I included the times and locations of each sketch as well. Eventually I became more comfortable drawing the people that kept moving in and out, and tried to record as much information as possible. It was those rare quiet moments I'd find, where something (or someone) isololated made their way into the image that I found to be the most memorable.
I also happened to come to Hong Kong at an interesting time, unknowingly. If you've been tuning into the news as of late, you'll know that rather large protests were going on. The night before I went to check things out for myself, tear gas and pepper spray were used on the crowds. I was thankful to see none of that used when I was present, and can only hope that the rest of the protest was just as peaceful. Thank you everyone for checking in on me at this time, and making sure I was safe. To be honest, at least for the two nights I was there, it felt less like a protest and more like a celebration. Most even cleaned up after themselves, and many gave praise to the local Police for doing what they do. I was fortunate enough to have an old studio mate of mine from JCCAC come with me on one of the nights and tell me what was actually going on from a locals perspective, as I am not from Hong Kong, don't pretend to be, and never will be, despite my ties to the city. Hong Kong is a vibrant city on the verge of cultural change, and it fights for its independance and I fully support that, and democracy. It was also very interesting personally for me to see the use of so many umbrella's as shields from the pepper spray. If you've followed along with my artwork as of late, you'll know that I was using umbrella's as a surface in which to apply text to. I was interested in the umbrella as it has a much stronger presence in Hong Kong, versus Calgary. The umbrella became part of an aesthetic for me, as they were not uncommon to see on non rainy days. They are a shield from multiple elements, helping to maintain comfort from the world. I suppose in some senses, they are like a highly practical safety blanket. The umbrella has quickly become a symbol of the protests.
Again I'd like to thank everyone for their sending me their messages throughout my stay in Hong Kong, and for all the hospitality from friends and family along the way. A closing shot from the drive home from Nelson, BC, marking the end to yet another adventure. Thanks for tuning in.